Questions have been raised about the culture within the Queensland Ambulance Service.
Questions have been raised about the culture within the Queensland Ambulance Service.

Ambos ‘afraid’ to raise mental health issues

QUEENSLAND ambulance workers are too afraid to raise mental health issues with senior management for fear of repercussion, a Senate Committee has heard.

Workers believe they will be placed into "medical retirement" or ridiculed by colleagues if they raise any issues they may have, the Australian Paramedics Association told the committee.

The association, which represents about 2000 Queensland paramedics, also said its concerns were not being taken seriously by the State Government because they were not a union.

Association representative Efthimia Voulcaris was scathing of QAS senior management, saying a culture had developed over time that did not encourage workers with mental health issues to come forward.

"Employees see how other employees are being treated, and that is actually impeding them from putting their hand up to ask for help," she said.

"We have had resistance from QAS in dealing with the association and that has been regretful. "I think you will see from our attempts to contact the minister directly and raise our concerns we were dismissed so we have previously tried to raise our genuine and serious concerns and no, they haven't been taken seriously."

QAS deputy commissioner Michael Metcalfe bluntly rejected the claims, saying the treatment of mental health issues was a major priority for the service.

"Last year alone we had nearly 4500 occasions where employees sought support," he said.

"It was an excellent opportunity to talk to the Senate Committee and emphasise how important this is to us.

"We were able to provide a more realistic version of events."

A leading psychologist who also appeared before the committee said he believed emergency service personnel had "use-by dates" after being traumatised through decades on the frontline.

Stephen Heydt said there was no recognition within the frontline services when employees had experienced a number of traumatic events back-to-back.

"You will often see people sitting at the end of their shifts, just sitting like stunned mullets, absolutely blank expression and completely washed out," he said.

"There's no recognition, there's no one who steps in to say 'come on, you need tomorrow off', (instead) they might be on again in eight hours."

The hearings will continue around Australia.